DOUGLAS, GA – With the state of Georgia accounting for nearly half the nation’s peanut production, it’s important that each aspect of the industry work in harmony. Nothing exemplifies that more than the grower-owned operation Premium Peanut, which helps farmers with each step of the process.
“We are essentially a cooperative of over 350 farmers in 30 counties throughout Georgia, and we work with them to grow, harvest, and then shell peanuts,” says Karl Zimmer, President of Premium Peanuts. “We are the only shelling plant east of 75 and as peanut production and peanut growing has moved into southeast Georgia over the past 15 years, there really was a need logistically to have something close.”
This facility, which shells up to 900 tons of peanuts a day, helps save farmers time and money thanks to its convenient location right in the middle of peanut country.
“It’s extremely beneficial just from a logistical standpoint to minimize those freight costs getting the product out of the field at harvest into the buying points and from the buying points or the collection points into the shelling plant,” says Zimmer.
One of the major partners for this operation since its opening in 2015 has been SunTrust Bank, who provided both working capital and flexible financing. It’s the kind of partnership they believe is essential not just for agriculture, but to the future of the country.
“If you look at food and agriculture in the United States, it’s a significant part of our GDP and it’s a category that we are not likely to rely on a foreign source of supply. So, as we look at the next several decades, food and agriculture will be a significant part of the US domestic economy,” says Todd Southerland, Senior Vice President of SunTrust bank.
With that in mind, Premium Peanut recently expanded their operation, building a state of the art peanut oil facility, which creates more value to the product by using the entire supply.
“We are generating a lot of not edible peanuts. They’re part of the manufacturing process. I come from metals manufacturing. You need scrap there. Well, our scrap is peanuts that are too small, they’re broken, maybe they have damage to them, and we can’t sell them to the edible market. But you can absolutely crush them and produce peanut oil from them,” says Zimmer.
As for how the oil is produced, it’s really a simple process.
“You break them down into small pieces. You heat them up to release that oil. Then it’s a mechanical press, and it is really just using mechanical pressure to squeeze the oil out,” says Zimmer.
With the addition of a new operation comes an addition of new jobs as well, and with the peanut industry being so far reaching in the state, it’s not just the local community that sees the benefits from this expansion
“When you think about premium peanut, it’s had a huge impact on the greater Douglas community,” says Southerland. “It’s obviously having an impact on this particular business. It’s also helping light the way to financial well-being for hundreds of farmers that are members of the cooperative. So, indirectly, it touches literally hundreds of families in South Georgia.”
“We have over 200 employees,” says Zimmer. “So, I think that is clearly important to this county and for where we are locally. Our growers are in 30 counties throughout southern Georgia and we have 10 buying points spread out through the southern part of the state. So, I think when you look at our true economic impact to agriculture and to the peanut industry throughout the state of Georgia, it’s very significant.”
By: Damon Jones